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Fighting homophobia by tracking down its source

As a journalist, I'm a big believer in free speech, but also in the idea that bigotry and wrongdoing are fair game for scrutiny.

Regardless of your political leanings, it's fair to say that publicly ridiculing others in a confrontational and unconstructive way deserves calling out.

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, a campaign to confront bigotry as it exists across the globe. According to its 2012 annual report, the campaign launched in 2004 and chose May 17 "to commemorate the World Health Organization's decision in 1990 to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders."

What better day to take a look at how and where homophobia is manifesting itself in Maryland and across the country, right?

Luckily, there are some neat tools. 

As a big Twitter fan, I like this one:

This site, a project of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta, tracks mentions of words like "faggot" and phrases like "no homo" on Twitter, keeping running tallies for each epithet and also flashing across the screen individual usages -- complete with real Twitter handles.

I noticed a few flashes of Twitter users admonishing others for using the words, so the total count isn't 100 percent bashing. But the percentage is high. Take a look. What do you think?

Also, here's another thought-provoker: The Geography of Hate is a Google-powered map created by Dr. Monica Stephens at Humboldt State University that shows the "geographic origins of hate speech across the country."

The map uses every geocoded tweet in the United States between June 2012 and April 2013 that contains one of the hate words tracked, in addition to racist terms and a derogatory term for individuals with disabilities -- which I don't want to repeat.

You can zoom in and out on the map, so take a close look at Maryland.

UPDATE: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice issued a video statement today to commemorate the day.

Today "we rededicate ourselves to a basic but essential truth: That human rights are universal and must be protected for all," Rice said.

She went on to say, "Homophobia sadly is present in every corner of our world and it is a problem we continue to face here in the United States."

Check out the video here.


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